- After carpal tunnel surgery, you should expect the onset of pain and reduced hand strength and mobility.
- While it's important to avoid any strenuous physical activity, slow and simple hand exercises should be performed to keep the muscles and tendons active.
- Physiotherapy is of utmost importance to help facilitate the recovery of your hand.
What is carpal tunnel surgery?
Carpal tunnel surgery is a surgery that is performed on the hand to correct any problems that you may have with your carpal tunnels. The surgery can be performed as an open surgery or the doctor can use a less invasive approach.
There are so many things and changes that you will experience after having carpal tunnel surgery. Since this type of surgery is done on the hand, it causes major changes in a patient’s life as we usually rely on both hands to carry out many of the activities that we do in our day to day living.
Most people normally don’t appreciate the importance of their hands until one of them is rendered unusable. Once you are forced to only rely on a single hand, then carrying out tasks becomes more difficult and you take more time in doing even the simplest of tasks. So before your hand goes back into full use after carpal surgery, here are some of the things that you should expect to experience:
1. Duration of recovery
After the surgery, your hand will get heavily bandaged and you will then have to stay with it until your scars are healed. The recovery period takes around 6 to 8 weeks. The bandage may be removed after around 4 weeks but if the doctor sees that it is not yet healed well you may continue to stay in them.
During this period of healing you should minimize the use of the affected hand as much as possible to give it the required conditions to heal fast.
Even after removal of the bandages, full recovery differs across individuals. It can take from as little as a few days to as long as a couple of months to recover. In addition, not every patient fully recovers after carpal surgery. For some, the operated area may remain soft and refuse to harden completely even after a period of time.
2. Setting in of some of the side effects of the surgery
Carpal tunnel surgery is normally done as an outpatient procedure since it usually takes the surgeon less than an hour to carry it out. During the surgery, a patient is usually under the effect of anesthesia. However, after the surgery, the anesthesia begins to wear off, thus causing some post-surgery pain to set in.
Pain is one of the things you should expect after a carpal tunnel surgery. The degree of pain that people experience varies from person to person. If you feel that your pain is extreme, see your doctor immediately. Most patients are usually given pain-relieving drugs to help them cope with the situation.
Other side effects that you may have include bleeding, risks of infection at the site of surgery, and swelling of the hand. These are very serious side effects, and they should not be taken lightly. Any such developments should be of major concern, and you should visit the hospital as soon as possible to seek further medical intervention.
3. Reduced strength of the hand
During carpal tunnel surgery, a ligament known as the transverse carpal ligament is cut. This ligament is the most important one in holding the bones and muscles in your hand together. Once it is severed, then this means that your hand becomes less strong than it was before.
You will discover that there are certain things you used to do with your hand before that now proves to be more difficult to carry out. The weight you used to lift with it may now be reduced, and doing mundane activities such as using certain tools may now be harder to do too.
4. Frequent visits to the physiotherapist
Your doctor will keep track of your hand as it heals after the surgery. Once your doctor is satisfied that you are well enough, then he/she may recommend you to see a physical therapist. Physiotherapists will help you regain better control and use of your hand. This is because during this healing period, your hand is mostly inactive due to lack of usage and movement. Post-surgery pain and discomfort make the hands less efficient in carrying out everyday tasks.
Physiotherapists also have programs and exercises that will teach you how to improve the movement of your wrist, as well as your grip. These programs help your hand heal faster and also improve its strength.
Tips on how to manage yourself after carpal tunnel surgery
There are several things you can do to manage your healing and recovery after carpal tunnel surgery. Below are ways on how to deal with any problems that may arise post-surgery and also what to do to hasten your recovery time.
a) Avoid activities or tasks that strain your hand. Giving your hand time to heal is very important. Do not engage in activities that may require the use of both hands. Get someone else to do it for you so that you do not strain the muscles and tendons of your hand. If the affected hand is your primary hand of use, take time to learn how to use the other hand. Slowly but surely train the other hand to do things like writing, eating, typing among others.
b) Exercise the affected hand. This does not mean that you engage your hand in vigorous exercises, but rather do simple exercises such as stretching or moving your wrist and fingers. This will help keep them fit and also prevent them from going numb. It will also improve your healing process and make it easier to go back to using your hand after it is healed.
c) Keep in touch with your doctor. Ensure you are in constant communication with your health care provider and immediately report any symptoms or problems that may arise.
d) Make appointments with a physiotherapist. You do not necessarily have to wait until your hand is healed to start seeing a physiotherapist. You can begin as early as after the surgery. Together with your physiotherapist, you can come up with ways on how to improve the functionality of your hand.
The Bottom Line
You should not lose hope about the effectiveness of your hand after a carpal tunnel surgery. There are ways that can help improve the recovery and mobility of your hand. Before undertaking this surgery, please make sure to have an in-depth discussion with your doctor on what to expect pre- and post-surgery. If possible, see other doctors and weigh all your options, including alternative treatments if available.